All written Higher School Certificate exams will go ahead this year but ongoing frustration over a lack over remote learning has prompted some students to call for them to be cancelled entirely.
The new timetable will be officially released on Friday morning, but a preliminary version accidentally uploaded on Thursday afternoon showed exams would run for 19 days beginning with English on 9 November and finishing with food technology on 3 December.
A NSW Education Standards Authority spokesperson apologised for the “confusion and inconvenience” the error had caused.
The exams, originally scheduled for October, were postponed on 27 August, with a revised timetable and guidelines to be released in “early September”.
Year 12 student Jacinta Lee said the continued uncertainty on how, and when, the exams would safely go ahead had been “really hard” on her and her peers.
“We got put into lockdown halfway through the term, in the middle of my trial exams, and there was so much uncertainty,” she said.
“Exams were my priority since the beginning of year 12 … I no longer care about them. It’s been such a long and stressful journey … the majority of students want them cancelled.
“Being from Morisset, in regional NSW, we don’t have resources and the best help provided to us … it’s been such a rollercoaster.”
A Fairfield year 12 student, who wished to remain anonymous, agreed.
“We have very little motivation to study due to the uncertainty of HSC exam dates,” she said.
“Our teachers aren’t able to effectively keep track of our ability. Many people also struggle to study remotely due to internet accessibility issues.
“The HSC is just a formality at this point … all it is doing is causing unnecessary stress, and for what?”
According to the current NSW education plan, a staggered return to face-to-face learning would begin on 25 October with vaccinations among school staff to be mandatory.
Year 12 students have already been able to return in a “limited way” during term 3, but the plan would give full-time access to school campuses and teachers from the return date.
“Unlike other venues and adult activity, it is really important for school communities, for students and teachers, to have a fixed date they open to provide certainty,” the NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian, said on Thursday.
“That is why we nominated October 25. We assumed … by that stage, 70% of adults would be vaccinated and there would be some start of the vaccination for 12 to 15-year-olds.”
But year 12 student Tara Guilbert said the HSC was already “unfair” because of the differing experiences of students depending on their locality.
“Some people have been in lockdown for months, while regional places like Coffs Harbour will be getting a significant advantage as they had had face-to-face teaching,” she said.
“The delay to the exams has put such a toll on year 12s’ futures and their mental health. Delaying the exams is delaying our futures, our goals.
“We’re not motivated because of all the changes we are facing, making it feel pointless to study. I used to be a student on track to get a good Atar but now it has gone down, as online learning has left me not knowing the content.”
Year 12 student Tyler Stafford, who is completing his studies in the Riverina in regional NSW, said he felt for those grappling with extended periods of remote learning in impacted LGAs, but his final year of schooling had still been “a real struggle”.
“It’s hard not knowing what to study for … I keep finding myself in a constant loop of stressing and not stressing because of it,” he said.
“At this point, I do wish for them to be cancelled. We have been impacted so much from the lockdowns that there is no point of making us do an exam which causes more stress than needed.”
A Nesa spokesperson said the decision to delay exams was “based on health advice”.
“The HSC is a major logistical operation each year, involving tens of thousands of students, supervisors, teachers, transport workers, markers and exam security and administrative staff,” the spokesperson said.
“It is made more complex by a global pandemic and we are listening to HSC students who tell us they want clarity.”
A Covid-19 Special Consideration Program had been made available for students completing performance, oral language or major projects that have been impacted by ongoing restrictions, or year 12 students who had not met the minimum HSC standard.
Berejiklian said the delay of HSC exams would not disadvantage students applying to university.
HSC results are due to be released in January 2022.
“The return to school plan provides parents, teachers and students with certainty and a path forward for the return to face-to-face learning,” Berejiklian said.